Downtown areas across B.C. have emerged from a bleak winter, with business closures and restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Angie Mindus/Williams Lake Tribune)

Downtown areas across B.C. have emerged from a bleak winter, with business closures and restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Angie Mindus/Williams Lake Tribune)

Return to offices up next in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Tourism businesses can start to take bookings again

B.C. business owners are relieved to have their road map for a return to normal operations, with a return to offices getting underway and recreational travel bookings coming back.

The province’s four-step COVID-19 restart plan outlines a return to near-normal conditions by this fall, depending on vaccination rates continuing to rise and coronavirus infections continuing to fall. The plan restores confidence for tourism and hospitality businesses that have seen setbacks and business closures, said Walt Judas, CEO of the Tourism Association of B.C.

“While the plan is welcome and appreciated, the biggest concern for our industry going forward is the risk that the province may need to slow down the various phases if hospitalizations, ICU admissions and transmission rates all rise in the weeks and months ahead in spite of increasing vaccination rates,” Judas said after the May 25 restart announcement.

Recreational travel remains restricted until June 15, with public health orders in place to keep trips within each of three zones, the Lower Mainland, the B.C. Interior and Vancouver Island. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry encouraged people to explore within their regions until province-wide travel is allowed again, likely within a month.

Urban businesses have been starved for customers as many office workers stayed home during the long pandemic, but that is changing as of this week, Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon says.

“For offices and workplaces, step one allows for the work from home guidance to be lifted gradually,” Kahlon said May 25. “At this time, employees can now work in the office for a few days a week, following their employers’ existing safety plan. In step two, employees can return to work fully, with the ability to hold small in-person meetings. And in step three, we will see workplaces holding larger meetings, seminars outside of the office.”

RELATED: B.C.’s COVID-19 infection drop continues, 289 cases Tuesday

RELATED: Mandatory mask rule to be reviewed, could be gone in July


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